23 Jul Verah Omwocha: What I’m learning working at Writers Guild Kenya
I joined Writers Guild Kenya in November 2016 and started working formally as a Publishing Manager in June 2017. This was probably the best decision I ever made, partly because of the lessons I have learnt, some of which I have found necessary to share below. Just in case you may pick something from them.
One time, I was working with a client whom I called ‘overly difficult and too demanding’ and whom I kept complaining to my husband about. At an informal event, she mentioned a heart-breaking moment in her life. I felt sorry for her and thought, ‘maybe I was too hard on her’.
I’m learning to work with and co-exist with people with different temperaments. I’m learning to be more accommodative. I’m learning to do what I can for anyone. I’m learning that people are too far complex and sometimes you can only do what you can for them and leave it at that.
I grew up with very few friends at different stages of my life. At some point, I wondered if it’s friends who didn’t have me or it’s I who didn’t have them. Because I always hid my fears. I always thought ‘no one will understand’ so I protected what I thought were to go- to- the –grave- with -secrets.
I have learnt that we’re all more vulnerable than we let on. That we are all innately little broken children and we owe each other hand holding.
At Writers Guild Kenya, I’ve made the most meaningful relationships in my life. I’ve met people who had trekked familiar, and even worse paths. People who shared chunks of their life with me. They’ve made me discover what friendship really means (what led to the WGK 2019 theme of ‘Holding Hands’). True to this spirit, we all need someone (some people), to hold our hands. It’s sad that most times we never realize this and hence suffer in silence.
Not to mention how much kindness and humility I learn from life’s best gift to me – Gabriel
3. Learning and true growth
If I were to be employed and sit behind a huge mahogany desk, I would easily make a ‘good’ manager. Because working at Writers Guild Kenya has thrown me into the deepest end of people and situations I didn’t know how to manoeuvre.
I am learning people skills, soft skills, hard skills.
I’m learning to be a better person. When someone does or says something that would ordinarily offend me, it registers in my mind not to do it to anyone else.
I’m learning to be more honest because growth can only be true, even if that would cost a ‘friend’.
4. People won’t always understand, or make an effort to and that’s okay
Someone whose book we were working on at some point was complaining to me about something I thought we were had struggled to do our best on – long after the project had been completed. He kept going on and on about how he didn’t feel like he was a priority to us. I nodded. Asked him prompting questions like ‘did you share with someone in the team so we would improve on the grievances?’ Inside, I really wanted to cry. I wanted to say; You have no idea how much we struggle, how much everyone sacrifices. You have no idea how hard we have to work. You don’t know how hard we try. You don’t know what we have to do. Thinking about it now, I say, ‘he just doesn’t know the behind the scenes’ and that’s okay that he felt how he felt. My consolation in whatever situation is we always try and always do everything we can to make things work. Looking at things from a Supernatural view has greatly sustained us. Gabriel always tells me to ‘report’ such people and situations to God. It is consoling to look at things as an offering to God.
I have felt my back and even nails ache after an intense day helping organise events or book launches. I’ve swept rooms while people take pictures – which, luckily I don’t care much about. I have collected water bottles, some of which people just open to take a sip and leave the rest for waste beneath their chairs. I have morphed into roles I didn’t prepare for.
Now, whenever I attend whatever event it is, I am careful because I know somebody has put in their all to make it happen. I can now even afford to ask ‘can I help pack up’? And no one ever says no. I’m learning to serve only what I can finish eating and not to eat uncaringly because someone else paid for the food.
I’m learning that it’s my responsibility to clean up after myself and even others, wherever I am. That maybe we should introduce the nursery lessons on ‘do not Litter’. I am learning to use the magic words more. To appreciate every little effort shown and every little generosity extended to me, most of which I don’t deserve.
I’m also learning, guiltily at first, that I can only take responsibility for what I know. I cannot take responsibility on behalf of the team or myself, for what people have against me or us in their hearts or shared with third or fourth parties instead when we’re the most approachable team I know . That is a burden they choose to carry.
6. Resilience and Patience
I have felt stretched beyond my physical and emotional abilities. I have carried books and banners for, sometimes, insane distances. I have forced myself to work on seemingly looking difficult assignments. I have learnt to sometimes get out of what I would ordinarily do, like knocking on some doors.
I have been exhausted, mentally and physically doing what I thought was ‘my best’ only to still get complaints or rumbles. I’ve asked, “What do people really want? “What more do you give after you’ve given your all?”
But I’ve seen so much resilience in Writers Guild – in people pursuing their love for the written word. In Gabriel, through what he (and Writers Guild have been through all these years), you simply can’t complain doing some tasks. It is what, without God, you would lack reason for doing.
I’m learning to ask God for divine patience to handle people who say one thing this week and another the next week. I’m learning to still look at people who aren’t genuine about their compliments because I overheard them say something contradictory. I’m learning that some fights are not worth it; that fighting in itself is unnecessary. I’m learning to do my part, present it to God and go my way.
7. What’s the worst that can happen?
Under immense pressure I have said things like, ‘I’m going to die if those books don’t make it on time to the launch’. Somehow, in the worst of cases, things have always managed to work themselves out. Though not in the best way or as planned, we’ve still managed. I’m learning to be hopeful and trust the growth process. I’m learning to remain calm under tense situations. To try to smile even when it’s very difficult. To hold on since nobody promised it would be a highway. I’m learning to lock my emotions up and handle cases objectively. I’m learning to find the question and answer it calmly in emails that start with ‘what do you mean’ or those shouting in capital letters. I’m learning to think of the other side. This nature of learning, can’t take place in any school.
8. I’m really sorry
It has never been a struggle to say sorry, especially when it is deserved but at Writers Guild, I’m learning to say sorry for situations that I (we) don’t have a hand in. I’m learning to say sorry we can’t print such few copies with the type of paper you want. Sorry we haven’t sent the document because we had an event and haven’t gotten back to work. Sorry we can’t publish your script because it’s not ready yet. Sorry we can’t work with such short timelines. Sorry we’re asking so much because quality publishing is very expensive…I’m sorry about this and that and whatever will not impress you.
9. I only have myself
Even when surrounded by people, I have learnt a lot of independence. I tell myself that I’m the only one I can depend on to do this and that so that if no one offers a hand, I don’t get disappointed. Perhaps not the best way to collaborate but it helps me expect nothing or very little from anyone. That, sometimes affects my delegation . I recently listened to an audio by the famous Philosopher, Seneca, who advises that the secret to a calm life is to expect very little from people.
10. Personal Relationships and Work
I’ve met people who thought I only work at Writers Guild because it’s my husband’s call. But I trust that I merit to work at Writers Guild. Wanna see my CV? Okay, no need.
Once at a work related event, a friend introduced me as ‘the CEO’s wife’. While I understand she meant well and perhaps wanted me to feel ‘uplifted’ I felt deeply hurt not because I felt reduced to ‘An arm of the CEO’ but because in that specific circumstance, she was referring to a Publishing Manager, not the wife. People find it so hard to distinguish that. Gabriel and I work a little too ‘perfectly’; when it comes to work, he treats me like anyone else in the team, so do I. No special favours, no shortcuts. I learnt from him that we do this for everyone else, not us.
Some people call me and insist on ‘speaking with Gabriel’ about their scripts. Of course, he ends up sending them back to me. I’m learning not to play bossy or sound vengeful about it but be as objective as humanly possible.
11. Hard Work
Many times, I work so hard to validate to myself that I really am able to carry out the tasks assigned to me and those that I take on by myself. I keep learning to deliver more than expected of me. I also have to work hard in this field because sometimes, I have met clients who decided ‘I look too SMALL’ to do the job well. Or those who thought being ‘the wife’, I probably don’t even ‘qualify’! So I have to get some good job done so that my portfolio can go before me. I have also worked with some people whom never met me and loved the work that we do. Stereotypes are hurtful.
Bonus question; Why do you publish with other publishers and not Writers Guild?
My writing is different from my job.
Purely by chance, not a ‘decision not to publish with WGK’ partly because I’ve been commissioned, I’ve been privileged to work and Publish with other Publishers, just like I’ve worked with other Publishers and now at Writers Guild. Writers Guild has also made it clear that our primary objective is not to Publish, but to truly grow writers who can compete at an international level and whose works can be published by any good publisher in the world. The key objective is to set writers up to influence the world through the pen, through every channel available locally and internationally. One of Writers Guild’s key principles is encouraging freedom. We truly believe that each human person, with humility and guidance, is able to make an independent choice on what’s good for them and be ready to take responsibility. Writers Guild accepts its limitations in some areas, and is always happy working with others to achieve the goal above. Nonetheless, I’m working on Publishing my little memoir with Writers Guild as well as a Writing text.
NB: At Writers Guild Kenya, I’ve experienced so much love, light and kindness in immeasurable ways. All these experiences are truly transforming me into a better human being and a better professional. For this and more, I’m eternally grateful to the Writers Guild Family.
Talk to Writers Guild Kenya through: firstname.lastname@example.org